CONFLICTS OF INTEREST?

May 01, 2019 at 4:30 am

According to an investigation by independent news outlet The City, Mayor de Blasio is personally soliciting donations from sources looking to gain favor from his administration. The investigative reporter will join us to share their findings.

Read the full article here. 

Aired on April 30, 2019. 

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>>> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
MAYOR de BLASIO INSISTS HE
FOLLOWED THE LAW.
BUT THE DEMOCRAT IS AGAIN
ANSWERING QUESTIONS ABOUT ETHICS
AS HE FLIRTS WITH A RUN FOR THE
WHITE HOUSE.
A NEW INVESTIGATION FROM THE
CITY, THE NONPROFIT NEWS
WEBSITE, FOUND THAT HE IS
PERSONALLY SOLICITING DONATIONS
FOR HIS POLITICAL ACTION
COMMITTEE.
THAT INCLUDES RAISING MONEY FROM
PEOPLE LOOKING FOR FAVORABLE
TREATMENT FROM CITY HALL.
HE'S USING SOME OF THAT MONEY TO
PAY FOR HIS TRAVEL AS HE
EXPLORES A PRESIDENTIAL BID.
LAST WEEK, WE TOLD BUT ANOTHER
INVESTIGATION INVOLVING THE
MAYOR AND HIS ETHICS.
THE CITY WAS ALSO BEHIND THAT
STORY WHICH UNCOVERS THAT de
BLASIO BROKE CITY ETHICS RULES
DURING AN EARLIER FUNDRAISING
CAMPAIGN.
AND JOINING ME NOW IS THE CITY
HALL REPORTER FOR THE CITY,
WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
WE'VE RECENTLY HAD THEM ON TO
TALK ABOUT THE REPORT THAT YOU
DID.
AND I'M WONDERING, WHAT WAS IT
THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO UNBERTH
THE MAYOR'S FUNDRAISING TACTICS?
>> WELL, THAT REPORT FOUND THAT
HE HAD DIRECTLY SOLICITED
DONATIONS FROM PEOPLE WITH
BUSINESS PENDING BEFORE THE CITY
AND HE HAD BEEN WARNED A FEW
TIMES THAT THE CONFLICTS OF
INTEREST BOARD DIDN'T WANT THAT
TO HAPPEN.
SO WHAT WE DECIDED TO DO WAS
SEE, WELL, LET'S SEE IF HIS
BEHAVIOR HAS CHANGED.
HE HAS THIS NATIONAL, POLITICAL
ACTION COMMITTEE.
CALLED THE FAIRNESS PAC.
AND WE WENT THROUGH THE LIST OF
DONORS AND WE COMPARED TO IT
VARIOUS DATA BASES THAT SHOW US
WHO HAS BUSINESS PENDING BEFORE
THE CITY.
AND WE FOUND AT LEAST A HALF
DOZEN EXAMPLES WHERE THE MAYOR
HAD REACHED OUT TO SOLICIT MONEY
FROM THESE PEOPLE.
>> WELL, CAN YOU GIVE US ONE OF
THOSE EXAMPLES?
I FEEL LIKE THAT'S REALLY WHAT
WILL SEND IT HOME FOR PEOPLE.
>> SURE.
THERE'S THIS GROUP, A REAL
ESTATE GROUP IN BROOKLYN.
THEY'RE BUILDING A 43 STORY
LUXURY COMMERCIAL AND
RESIDENTIAL BUILDING DOWNTOWN
BROOKLYN.
AND THEY BASICALLY USED AN LLC
TO REGISTER THIS PROPERTY.
THEY NEED A LOT OF PERMISSION
FROM THE CITY TO DO DIFFERENT
THINGS.
THERE'S BUILDING PERMITS, YOU
KNOW, WHEN ANYTHING IS FOUND
WRONG.
THEY NEED TO LOBBY THE BUILDINGS
DEPARTMENT TO ALLOW THEM TO
RESUME WORK.
AND THE THREE TOP OFFICIALS AT
THIS GROUP ARE REGISTERED WITH
THE CITY.
AND THE MAYOR THAT, I WON'T
SOLICIT MONEY FROM THEM.
>> OKAY.
>> HOWEVER, THEY HAVE OTHER
RELATIVES WORKING AT THE SAME
COMPANY WHO ARE GIVING DONATIONS
USING, YOU KNOW, USING A
DIFFERENT NAME.
USING THE REAL NAME FOR THE
COMPANY.
BUT THIS SPECIFIC PROJECT IS
REGISTERED UNDER A DIFFERENT LLC
NAME.
SO TECHNICALLY, THEY'RE NOT IN
THE BUSINESS DATABASE ALTHOUGH
COULD YOU ARGUE, THEY'RE
CONNECTED TO THE FIRM DOING THE
BIG PROJECT IN BROOKLYN.
>> SO WHILE ALL OF THIS SOUNDS
SHADY FOR LACK OF A BETTER
DESCRIPTION, ON THE SURFACE, IS
ANY OF IT ACTUALLY ILLEGAL?
ANY LAWS BROKEN?
>> I THINK THAT'S WHERE A LOT OF
THE ARGUMENT HAS HINGED, THE
MAYOR'S FOLKS, THE PEOPLE BEHIND
THE COMMITTEE ARE SAYING,
ACCORDING TO POLITICAL CAMPAIGN
LAWS, WE'RE DOING EVERYTHING BY
THE BOOK AND EVEN GOING ABOVE
AND BEYOND.
YOU ARE ALLOWED TO RAISE MONEY
FROM PEOPLE DOING BUSINESS WITH
THE CITY FOR POLITICAL CAMPAIGN.
ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU HAVE
THESE PRIOR RULINGS BY THE
CONFLICT OF INTEREST BOARD THAT
ARE SAYING, THE MAYOR SHOULDN'T
PERSONALLY SOLICIT DONATIONS
FROM PEOPLE WITH BUSINESS
PENDING BEFORE THE CITY.
SO IT IS A QUESTION OF, YOU
KNOW, WHETHER YOU WANT TO HAVE
THIS CONVERSATION IN THE CONTEXT
OF WHAT IS LEGAL OR ETHICAL.
>> WELL, HAS THERE BEEN ANY
BLOWBACK FOR THE MAYOR OR HIS
ADMINISTRATION?
>> WELL, THERE HAVE BEEN A
COUPLE PEOPLE WHO HAVE DONATED
TO CAMPAIGNS IN THE PAST, WHO
HAVE BEEN CONVICTED ESSENTIALLY
OF BRIBERY.
OF TRYING TO INFLUENCE CITY HALL
DECISIONS THROUGH GIVING MONEY.
I THINK WHAT HAS BEEN CHEER
THROUGHOUT THIS ADMINISTRATION
IS THAT MONEY WILL BUY YOU
ACCESS.
I THINK WHAT HAS BEEN HARDER TO
PROVE IS, DOES IT GET YOU A
FAVORABLE DECISION THAT YOU
WOULDN'T HAVE GOTTEN OTHERWISE?
AND EVEN THOUGH THERE HAVE BEEN
MULTIPLE INVESTIGATIONS, NONE
HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT,
AS FAR AS WE KNOW.
>> SO THIS IS MORE A CASE OF,
THIS LOOKS REALLY BAD.
BUT THAT NECESSARILY DOES NOT,
NOT ANYTHING THAT HAS BEEN
PROVEN THAT SOMEONE COULD BE
HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR.
>> I GUESS IT DEPENDS.
TO THE EXTENT OF PAY TO PLAY, AN
OBVIOUS NO-NO.
THAT HASN'T BEEN SHOWN BY ANY
LAW ENFORCEMENT ENTITY.
BUT IT IS VERY PROVABLE THAT
MONEY HAS GOTTEN DEVELOPERS, YOU
KNOW, MORE RESPONSIVE FROM CITY
HALL.
IT HAS GOTTEN THE MEETINGS WITH
TOP LEVEL OFFICIALS IN THE
GOVERNMENT.
AND THE AVERAGE JOE JUST, YOU
KNOW, DOESN'T GET THE SAME
TREATMENT.
AT TIMES PERHAPS.
>> SHOULD THE MAYOR CHOOSE TO
RUN FOR OFFICE, WHAT SERVE
BUZZING ABOUT, DOES SOMETHING
LIKE THIS AFFECT HIM?
PART OF WHAT IT SEEMS LIKE HE'S
ATTEMPTING TO PRESENT HIMSELF AS
IS A MUCH MORE PROGRESSIVE,
MORAL ALTERNATIVE TO THE OTHER
CHOICES.
>> AND IT DEFINITELY POKES HOLES
IN SOME OF HIS THEORIES OF HOW
HE WANTS THE CITY TO BE.
HE ALWAYS REFERS TO IT AS
WANTING TO MAKE NEW YORK AS THE
FAIREST BIG CITY IN AMERICA.
PEOPLE MIGHT BE TEMPTED ON ASK,
IS IT BETTER FOR PEOPLE WITH
MONEY TO GET BETTER ACCESS TO
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS?
>> WELL, I WANT TO THANK YOU SO
MUCH FOR ANOTHER REPORT THAT WE
CAN FIND OUT A LITTLE BIT,
PULLING THE CURTAIN BACK ON HOW
MONEY IS BEING RAISED BY THE
MAYOR AND CITY HALL.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
>> MY PLEASURE.

Mutual of America PSEG

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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